Song of the Day: Ain’t No Grave (by Johnny Cash)


The latest “Song of the Day” comes courtesy of the “Man in Black” himself. It’s the main track from his final posthumous-released album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave.

“Ain’t No Grave” gives us Cash in his final days as he continued to make music despite knowing that Death was coming for him and his time was almost up. We can hear the Cash’s voice gravelly as usual but also shows the failing health he was in. Yet, despite that he still gives the Old Testament-like lyrics of “Ain’t No Grave” the gravity and strength of someone who has seen all that life had to offer (both good and bad) and experienced them all.

The minimalist music backing up Cash’s voice as piano, organ and banjo played on the fly gives the song an almost doomsday tone as he sings about death, angels and the Second Coming. Yet, there’s a sense of hope to the lyrics themselves as Cash points out that not even the grave can keep him from reaching the promised land.

It’s final songs like “Ain’t No Grave” which continues to build the legend that is Johnny Cash. He’s gone beyond music superstar and icon to just legendary figure who seems to transcends art and life itself with every gravelly-voiced lyric sung. If there’s anyone who can look the Devil and God in their eye and tell them to stick it then it would be Johnny Cash.

Ain’t No Grave

There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down

When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m gonna rise right out of the ground
Ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down

Well, look way down the river
And what do you think I see
I see a band of angels
And they’re coming after me

Ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down

Well, look down yonder, Gabriel
Put your feet on the land and sea
But Gabriel, don’t you blow your trumpet
Until you hear from me

There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down
Ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down

Well meet me, Jesus, meet me
Meet me in the middle of the air
And if these wings don’t fail me,
I will meet you anywhere

Ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down

Well meet me, Mother and Father,
Meet me down the river road
And Mama, you know that I’ll be there
When I check in my load

Ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down

Thousand Years of Dreams Day 27: Beyond the Wall


I really like the simplicity and hopeful message which Day 27’s dream-memory imparts. This latest remembered memory from Kaim is titled “Beyond the Wall” and is quite timely in our current times of discord and division.

I grew up in the final decade of the Cold War when two sides suddenly began to realize that all the hatred between the two superpowers were only going to lead to the utter annihilation of the human race. The biggest and most prominent symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall which separated Communist Berlin from the Democratic side. This city which once was the seat of a genocidal madman who brought the world to war became a new silent battleground between differing ideologies which came out from the end of that war.

People on both sides were taught from an early age to hate the other side. Other nations began to take sides whether voluntarily or forced into by those who created the division. By the time I was old enough to understand the Cold War was at it’s height, but at the same time began to see a gradual decline until the unthinkable occurred in the early 1990’s: The Berlin Wall came down and the city which had been divided for almost a half-century was whole once again and people on both sides realized they had more in common than they realized. The monsters each side thought they would find never came to being.

While the Cold War is now over there are now new divisions both small and large. Divisions created by religious extremism on all sides. Divisions created by political parties who have forgotten the need for polite discourse and instead opted for demagoguery. Even racial divisions continue to exist despite forward strides to eliminate them.

In the end, “Beyond the Wall” teaches a simple moral. For all the hate people may have for the “other side” the truth of the matter is that most people have never met or ever been harmed by the “other side” but have bought into being told to hate those not “them” or “us”. Once that “wall” dividing people gets pulled down and we really see who the “other side” really are then, and only then, can we begin that long journey to quitting the job humanity has always been best at: WAR.

Beyond the Wall

The Wall is being demolished

Sledgehammers resound on both sides.

The Wall marked the national borders for decades — until yesterday. “Border” might not be the right word, however. Originally, both sides were part of a single nation. The country became divided owing to differences in ideology, and the two sides remained so mutually antagonistic that a high, thick wall had to be built. Those days are gone now.

A year ago, the leaders of the two sides shook hands in a historic reconciliation.

Today, after much preparation and coordination, the wall that symbolized the two sides’ antagonism is being demolished. The sound of hammering signals the end of opposition and extols the beginning of peace.

“C’mon, give me a break!” says Yuguno, spitting on the ground and glaring at the backs of the people swarming at the wall.

“Look at them, smiling like idiots. I can’t believe it!”

He glances at Kaim by his side as if to say: “Right?”

His still-boyish face wears a scowl of disgust.

“Tell me, Kaim, you’ve been to a lot of different countries and seen all kinds of people. Can people just take years of hatred like that and throw it out the window?”

Kaim gives him a sour smile instead of replying.

Yuguno is a young man, the first person that Kaim became friends with shortly after he arrived in this border town. He is pleasant enough except for is stubborn hatred of people from the “other side”

“One lousy handshake and I’m out of a job. I mean really, give me a break.”

Yuguno used to be a border guard – in other words, one of the men assigned to keep watch on the wall. He had volunteered, eager to kill anyone who dared to come over the wall from the other side. If his superiors had permitted it, he would have gladly crossed over and attacked the other side rather than waiting to fend off an invasion.

As a mandatory part of reconciliaton, however, the border guards were disbanded. Unlike his brothers in arms, who quickly started new lives for themselves, Yuguno was left behind by the changing times.

“Tell me, Kaim, can people be allowed to just slough off their resentments so easily? Do they just not give a damn?”

Kaim does not respond to this.

He knows Yuguno is a victim of the age of confrontation.

Still just a young man — a boy, even — Yuguno has been thoroughly conditioned since childhood to view the other side as the enemy.

Watch out — the other side could attack at any time.

Watch out — the other side are all cruel, cold-hearted villains.

Watch out — if the other side ever invaded us and occupied our towns, they’d burn down our houses, steal our property, kill our men, and assault our women.

Watch out — the day is not far off when they will be invading us. It could be three days from now, or it could be tomorrow. They might be climbing the wall today. This very moment.

Watch out — they’ve already sent their spies among us. And you can tell for sure who they are. They’re the ones who extol and sympathize with the other side by word and by deed.

Watch out — they’re probing for the slightest gaps in our psychological armor. Remain alert. Be ready to draw your sword at any moment.

Watch out, watch out, watch out, watch out.

There was much to be found out about the other side in the history books distributed in the schools on this side. The pictures of the people from the other side portrayed them all as ferocious demons.

“I’m not the only one, you know. All of us were taught the same thing. So how come everybody but me is so happy about the wall coming down?” Yuguno asks, looking utterly bewildered by these new developments.

Again and again he repeats his disbelief.

Finally, Kaim cannot help but respond to him.

“You were too pure”, he says.

“What?”

“It’s not your fault, Yuguno. It’s the ones who filled your pure, honest heart with hatred.”

“Wait a second now, Kaim. The animals who live on the other side of the wall are the ones who did that to me, the horrible things they do…”

Kaim cuts him short.

“Have they ever done anything horrible to you?”

“Well sure, no, not really to me, but . . .

Well, you see . . .”

Yuguno is momentarily at a loss for words until all he can do is raise his voice and blurt out.

“It’s true, though. The whole bunch of them are just horrible people!”

He folds his arms in a decided pout.

“How are they horrible? What did you ever see any of them do? When? Where?”

Yuguno stammers and sputters.

“Have you ever even met somebody from ever there?” Kaim demands to know.

Yuguno hangs his head and shakes it from side to side.

With a grim smile, Kaim says: “Well, I have. And they’re not devils or demons or anything of the sort. How could they be? You used to be part of the same country! But that stuff is beside the point anyway — countries and races and tribes. You’re all human beings. You’re all the same.”

Yuguno stays silent, hanging his head.

Cheers erupt at the wall.

The wall that has seperated the two worlds for decades has just now been broken through.

Representatives from his side and the other side walk through the opening, greet each other with smiles and firm handshakes, and embrace.

The cheers grow louder, and people — mostly people of the younger generation — gather in circles here and there, expressing their joy.

Yuguno glares down at his own shadow and asks Kaim.

“So, what should I do now? All I’ve ever done is hate. All I’ve ever known how to do is hate them.”

Kaim gives Yuguno a pat on the shoulder and says:

“It’s not too late to change. You can start now.”

“Can I?”

“You can, I’m sure of it.”

Kaim is sure because he knows what it was like when both sides were a single country. It was a kindly nation. By no means rich. It was yet a happy country of compassionate people.

“I’m telling you, Yuguno, people can change.”

“If you say so . . .”

“Look over there, Yuguno. Look at those people enjoying themselves.”

Hesitantly, Yuguno raises his head. Around the wall a celebration is beginning. Young people are dancing, singing, toasting each other, engaging in conversation and all of them used to be companions of Yuguno’s who received the same education he did. No doubt the young people on the other side were similarly educated to hate.

“What do you see over there? Demons? Devils?”

Yuguno shakes his head and lets the tightness out of his shoulders.

“I’m beginning to wonder, Kaim, why until now I’ve been so . . .”

Kaim pats him on the shoulder again to signal that he understands.

“People can change,” he says, “they can change from hating to loving — and from loving to hating.”

Yes, Kaim knows about that well. He saw how such a wonderfully unified country was divided in two at the end of a violent civil war.

“Don’t change anymore.” Kaim says, not just to Yuguno but to all the smiling young people.

A young girl hesitantly approaches Yuguno.

She is from the other side. She holds a plate full of cookies.

“Have some if you’d like,” she says, “I baked them this morning.”

The cookies are heart-shaped.

Urged on by the smiling Kaim, Yuguno reaches out for a cookie, his face bright red.

“Thanks” he says shyly and takes a bite of his cookie.

“Good?” she asks.

Yuguno turns a deeper shade of red and says: “Delicious!”
White bird cut across the blue sky —

from the other side to this side,

from this side to the other.

The white birds sail trough the sky almost joyfully, as if to tell the people below.

In the beginning, there were no borders!

Quick Review: Contagion (dir. by Steven Soderbergh)


Note that this isn’t the only review for Contagion.

Arleigh has an in-depth review of the film, which is also available to see, whereas this is more of a summary. As it’s for the same film, I’ve used the same tags that were in Arleigh’s post.

Before I start, I have to say that I haven’t had a theatre be so quiet during a film since I went to see Mirrors, and that was because there was no one there. My showing for Contagion was packed, but no one made a sound throughout the film. I coughed twice (because I had to), and you wouldn’t believe how many heads turned in my general direction. If nothing else, it shows that the movie had some impact to the audience, and that’s always (okay, usually) interesting to see. By the time the movie is over, you will probably pay attention to how many times you touch your face or the objects around you.

If there’s one thing I can give director Steven Soderbergh, it’s that he has a great ability to work with ensemble casts. He did a great job in getting everyone to work together on the Oceans Eleven remake and sequels. He also walked away with a Best Director Oscar for Traffic. His films have the ability to avoid having his stars chew up enough screen time that they appear to be an actual center character. Catherine Zeta-Jones’ had a character who’s story was just as strong as Benecio Del Toro’s.

On this, Contagion is no different. In essence, it’s almost like watching cameos in a miniseries.

Although the film is peppered with various actors, no one person can be considered the main character of the film. Soderbergh is able to get them all to play their roles well. He and Scott Z. Burns – one of the writers on The Bourne Ultimatum and a collaborator with Soderbergh – give us a number of perspectives for this story and damn, the whole thing is very tight overall. The movie has very little wasted space.

Like the story itself, the movie moves at a great pace, opening with Elizabeth Emhoff (Gwenyth Paltrow) on her second day after exposure to the virus after returning from a trip to Hong Kong. This eventually escalates to other infections reported in other areas around the world. In an effort to contain and understand what they’re dealing with, the Center for Disease Control starts an investigation. Lead by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Lawrence Fishburne), he sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to Minnesota to determine the scale of the problem.

In addition to the CDC’s efforts, the World Health Organization also gets involved, sending their own field agent to Hong Kong, played by Marion Cotillard. Both doctors come up with information that appear to be helpful for the overall investigation in various ways.

The other two angles in the film are through a conspiracy theory blogger / investigative reporter played by Jude Law and Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon), who has to deal with the impact of his wife’s sickness. Enrico Colantoni, Brian Cranston, Sanaa Lathan, Elliot Gould and Jennifer Ehle round out the cast. It should be noted that Ehle is the daughter of Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet actress Rosemary Harris, who looks remarkably like her mother. That’s just something that caught my eye.

In terms of the Kid Factor, I would be hesitant to take kids to see this unless they had a pretty clear handle on death or getting sick. Teens and adults could probably handle the film, but anyone under than that may freak out a little. Mind you, there’s very little gore in this film. When I think about it, there’s not even a whole lot of blood. There is some violence though as the story escalates and humanity goes wild, but it’s not that far a cry from many zombie movies. It’s up to the parents discretion on whether their kids should see this.

I should also point out that the music in this film is also very good. Cliff Martinez, who also worked on the score for Drive (also out this month) did an impressive job with an electronic score that sits in the background of the film, but also fits the pacing of the film well. It’s worth giving it a listen if at all possible. This quick review was actually written to the Contagion score.

Contagion is definitely worth seeing, easily recommended, but if you happen to be particular about germs, note that this may not be the most comfortable film to watch. Don’t be shocked if you end up hugging yourself while watching this in the theatre. With Soderbergh moving away from film directing to pursue other interests, Contagion is a nice final bow to his career.